The inside story behind Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s trip to Maidenhead United

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney at Maidenhead United. Photo: Darren Woolley /
Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney at Maidenhead United. Photo: Darren Woolley /

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Hollywood came to Berkshire this week, you may have seen it. One day when we do a final ever Football in Berkshire piece, maybe it’ll be a mark on the timeline of Berkshire football that’ll sit online for eternity. Maybe there’s already been enough written about Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s visit to Maidenhead United on Tuesday night that we don’t need to.

Except we’ve got a bit of an inside man in Neil Maskell, so we thought we’d try and get the inside track on what it was like when the two Wrexham chairman came to York Road and obviously ask all the big questions like did they go for a Bovril and were either of them up for donning the Magpie suit.

There’s also a bit from serious journalist Andy Gilpin of the Fearless in Devotion Wrexham fanzine for a bit of wider reading.

When did you know they might be coming? Our Chief Exec Jon Adams made me aware the previous week. Part of my duties as Secretary include liaising with my opposite numbers at our opposing clubs in order to plan the upcoming fixtures, from kit colours through to arrangements for directors and officials. I was aware quite early on that my usual ‘match confirmation’ email to Geraint the Secretary at Wrexham would read a little differently to usual!

Did you have to make any special arrangements? If I recall they are making a documentary about the season? This was always going to be a high-profile game for us regardless given Wrexham’s large travelling support. We did have a large film crew at the ground for a number of days who were planning for shooting footage of the two owners at their first-ever game for use in the forthcoming documentary about the Hollywood duo. The film crew were very nice and polite people but it was a little surreal making small talk with American film crew members who had never seen a soccer match before. Otherwise, plans were made for the two owners and their security entourage to enter the ground via the Canal End of the ground to avoid causing a scene at the York Road turnstiles!

Related: The Maidenhead United fan more famous than Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney put together – and we’ll accept zero arguments on this

Maidenhead United fans at the home fixture with Wrexham. Photo: Darren Woolley /
‘You bought the wrong club’! – Maidenhead United fans at the home fixture with Wrexham. Photo: Darren Woolley /

Is there any info on why they chose the Maidenhead game? Well, our proximity to Heathrow meant that they could fly in to make an appearance at a home game and squeeze in another game during their flying visit.

They appeared to be in general seats from the photos, but did they head into the boardroom? Did either of them have Bovril? There is no such thing as a directors box at York Road! Simply ‘general seats’ designated for home and away officials, indicated by stickers affixed to the seats. The pair would have been warmly welcomed to the boardroom – branded gin endorsed by Mr Reynolds had been brought in for the occasion – but perhaps they were a little perturbed by a turbulent first half for their team or maybe the jet lag was kicking in, they chose to remain in their seats during half time having politely declined refreshments.

Is there any knowledge of what they made of it all? They had some kind words for Peter Griffin I saw on Social Media and obviously ex-League club fans can be quite disparaging about York Road – I presume they weren’t? I guess they have very little to compare it against until they visit the Racecourse! They politely posed for pictures with Peter and his family and there was brief small talk. But as a club, we pride ourselves on a polite welcome, so they were very much left to enjoy their first experience of watching their club in the flesh as was their preference. Mr Reynolds has since made good-humoured reference to being “heckled” by the Magpies fans – ever dismissive of big reputations – who serenaded him by singing ‘You bought the wrong club’!

Alan Devonshire. Photo: Darren Woolley /
Get the Alan Devonshire look. Photo: Darren Woolley /

Will either of them be taking over the Magpie suit next season? Well they will be hoping that they won’t be in the same division as us next season but if they don’t quite get what they hope for this time around they’d be most welcome in hospitality next time. I can vouch for Mrs Devonshire’s home-cooked food! Mrs Devonshire herself had bought a new jacket for the occasion as it happens. Dev himself had the same old flat cap on; I doubt he’s ever watched a Marvel film. I left the ground at the same time as Peter and his family to catch my train and I could hear Peter’s daughter Niamh shriek with excitement as she discovered that a celebrity with 34 million followers had shared a selfie he’d had taken with her dad on his Instagram account! 

What about from a Wrexham point of view?

Andy Gilpin, former Wrexham AFC reporter for the North Wales Daily Post and one of the team behind the ‘Fearless in Devotion‘ fanzine spoke to FiB about Tuesday night’s scenes.

“I really thought they’d make a grand entrance at the home game at Torquay – we’ve been putting out the red carpet for months!

“As you can imagine we’ve been social media stalking them for days and the ‘in the know’ said they’d be landing on Wednesday and staying until Monday.

“So to see them at Maidenhead was a complete shock. They must have literally landed and come straight to the game – which is some effort.

“There was an inkling they could be there, but to be honest after a few pre-match pints many of us forgot.

“Then we could see commotion in the main stand. Geraint Parry (the football secretary) was very animated – and then they walked in, flanked by a massive security guard – drinking tea!

“Fair play, they choose a decent match that had everything. Two soft goals, a red card, a rip-roaring comeback and ultimately heartbreak.

“That’s following Wrexham in a nutshell. They’ve had the full experience already!”

Reynolds and McElhenney the latest celebrities to visit Maidenhead United

An excerpt from Neil Maskell’s brilliant Maidenhead United 150 moments in 150 years of the Magpies, 150 words. The story concerns the visit of Petula Clark and Alec Guinness to York Road to film the 1951 film ‘The Card’.

Local footballers were paid £2 for a morning’s work as the ground was transformed into fictional Bursley FC. A Staffordshire skyline complete with pottery kilns was superimposed in the background of the final finished scenes.

Members of the crowd which had gathered for the Magpies Corinthian League clash against Maidstone United that afternoon were used as extras and the pitch was flooded to create the effect of a rainy afternoon. The Magpies struggled on the saturated pitch, going down 4-2 to the Stones after Petula Clark had ‘kicked off’ the match.

The full piece is here.

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